As we give thanks today we know Christmas is coming. That means many things, but one of the best things about the holiday season in Nashville is the beloved annual presentation of A Christmas Story by Nashville Repertory Theatre. And we’re thankful that tradition resumes Friday with a preview performance and runs through Dec. 21 at Tennessee Performing Arts Center’s Johnson Theater.
The All-American show was adapted by Phillip Grecian based on the 1983 motion picture by Jean Shepherd, Leigh Brown and Bob Clark. Shepherd’s memoir of his 1940s Midwestern childhood follows nine-year-old Ralphie Parker in his unflappable campaign to get Santa (or anyone else) to give him a ”legendary official Red Rider carbine-action, 200 shot range-model air rifle.” Ralphie pleads his case before his mother, his teacher and even Santa Claus himself at Goldblatt’s Department Store seemingly to no avail: The consistent response is the infamous “You’ll shoot your eye out.”
Veteran Nashville actor Samuel Whited once again stars as “Ralphie.” Also returning to this cherished production are David Compton, Geoff Davin, Jamie Farmer, Andrew Kanies, Eric D. Pasto-Crosby and David Wilkerson.
“For many people, it isn’t Christmas until they see the movie A Christmas Story,” says Nashville Rep Producing Artistic Director and show director René D. Copeland. “We’ve quickly learned (and heard from our patrons) that in Nashville, it isn’t Christmas until you have seen our live and theatrical version of Ralphie’s quest for the Red Rider BB gun. This is a story we have come to cherish, and I could not be more thrilled that it has become important to the way Nashvillians want to celebrate their holiday. We truly love hearing from those who return every year how Nashville Rep has become a part of their family holiday tradition and relish the connection that happens when we tell you this story in our unique way, and frankly, it does as much to make our holiday complete as it does that of our patrons.”
Whited says: “If you are very, very lucky as an actor, you might find a role that you fit and that fits you. You might find a role that calls for you to create and live something on stage that you really want to share and the audience, happily, wants to share with you. You might even manage to find a role that is very well known and recognizable, yet never feel you have inhabited all of it–that there are parts of the journey onstage that are just as intriguing (occasionally baffling) as the very first time you presented it. For me, playing ‘Ralphie’ in A Christmas Story has been all this and more.
“I’ve gotten to divide my time between presenting nostalgia to one part of our audience and seeing much younger eyes widen with the immediacy of a story that takes place in 1940. I love the idea that the more things change, the more they stay the same. The outrageous fortunes of winter weather and bullies haven’t vanished. The overwhelming need of that one present for Christmas is still a motivational force that is barely containable. I live next door to an ‘old man’ who is an absolute fiend for turkey and major awards. We see ourselves and others we know in these stories. It only follows that we would want to gather together, again and again, to share it all.
“At some point, everyone has worn the pink bunny suit. Everyone. Everyone has had to stand in front of someone with their cheeks flushed and their stomach aching with upset. I am proud to stand tall and face those who can’t catch their breath; cackling at the sight of a 40-something man of dubious weight clad in bismuth pink fake fur. If nothing else, it’s lovely to see the relief on the faces of those who are thankful it’s not them.”
Friday, Nov. 28, 7:30 PM (PREVIEW)
Saturday, Nov. 29, 7:30 PM
Sunday, Nov. 30, 2:30 PM
Wednesday, Dec. 3, 6:30 PM
Thursday, Dec. 4, 6:30 PM
Friday, Dec. 5, 7:30 PM
Saturday, Dec. 6, 2:30 PM and 7:30 PM
Sunday, Dec. 7, 2:30 PM
Wednesday, Dec. 10, 6:30 PM
Thursday, Dec. 11, 6:30 PM
Friday, Dec. 12, 7:30 PM
Saturday, Dec. 13, 2:30 PM and 7:30 PM
Sunday, Dec. 14, 2:30 PM
Wednesday, Dec. 17, 6:30 PM
Thursday, Dec. 18, 6:30 PM
Friday, Dec. 19, 7:30 PM
Saturday, Dec. 20, 2:30 PM and 7:30 PM
Sunday, Dec. 21 2:30 PM
Tickets: Starting at $45 (starting at $12 for students with valid ID, some restrictions apply). Tickets are on sale at the TPAC Box Office (at 505 Deaderick Street in Downtown Nashville). Tickets are available by phone at (615) 782-4040 or online at nashvillerep.org.
*Photos from 2012 A Christmas Story production by Britanie Knapp courtesy Nashville Repertory Theatre.